LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The rate of new COVID-19 infections continued falling in Los Angeles County today, with new state figures showing the county still safely entrenched in the yellow tier of the state's economic-reopening blueprint.
The state's weekly release of county-by-county COVID metrics showed Los Angeles County's average rate of daily new infections falling to 1.4 per 100,000 residents. The rate last week was 1.6.
The county's testing-positivity rate held steady at 0.7%, while the positivity rate in lower-income, hard-hit communities dipped from 0.8% last week to 0.7%.
Those figures were all well within the range needed to remain in the least-restrictive yellow tier of the state's Blueprint for a Safer Economy. The county officially entered the yellow tier last week.
The county confirmed another 18 COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday, lifting the death toll from throughout the pandemic to 24,020.
Another 224 COVID infections were also confirmed by the county, for a pandemic total of 1,235,970.
According to state figures, there were 379 people hospitalized in the county due to COVID, up from 374 on Monday.
Los Angeles County health officials said they are prepared to being administering the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to youth aged 12-15 as soon as federal officials give it final approval.
"The most powerful tool to maintain our recovery progress is the vaccine and the most important work in front of us is to make it easier for residents to get vaccinated," Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. "With vaccination eligibility set to expand later this week to include adolescents between 12-15 years of age, there will be more opportunities to get vaccine into more arms to save lives and to build the county's protection against COVID-19. Getting vaccinated is the way we end this pandemic.'
Ferrer said Monday if the county can maintain its pace of administering about 400,000 doses per week, "herd immunity" could be achieved by mid to late July. Health officials are estimating that 80% of county residents will need to get vaccinated to reach that point.
County officials had earlier estimated that the bulk of county residents could be vaccinated by late June. But demand for the vaccine has tailed off -- both in the county and statewide -- in recent weeks.
Vaccines are now being offered without appointments at all county- and city-run vaccination sites, while authorities are emphasizing mobile clinics that reach into neighborhoods with low rates of inoculations.
According to figures provided Monday, only 38% of Black residents in the county have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 42% of Latinx residents. That compares to 60% of white residents and 68% of Asians.
When looking at the numbers by age, older residents -- who have been eligible for shots much longer -- have the best rates, with 86% of residents aged 65-79 receiving at least one shot, and 73% of those aged 80 and up.
But among the youngest eligible residents, those aged 16 and 17, the rate is just 34%, along with 45% of residents aged 18-29, 54% of those 30-49 and 65% of residents 50-64.
The county established a web portal Monday that allows people to arrange for a mobile vaccine team to visit specific work sites.
On Monday afternoon, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the use of the Pfizer vaccine on residents aged 12 to 15. The move still needs to be approved by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but that is anticipated to occur by the end of the week. Ferrer estimated there are about 500,000 people in the county in that age group.
Overall, as of Friday, nearly 8.5 million doses of vaccine have been administered in the county -- more than 5.1 million first doses and more than 3.3 million second doses.